How to Cleanup Smoke Damage & Soot After a Home Fire
When your property has suffered damage from smoke and fire, proper and timely cleanup is essential to prevent further damage and discoloration due to soot residue. We at Harris Claims Services are experts in smoke and fire damage and restoration and we’d like to tell you a little about what happens and how cleanup is managed.
Immediate Steps Must Be Taken To Minimize Smoke & Soot Damage
In addition to hiring Harris Claims Services for our expertise, property owners must immediately take care to address the following recommendations for cleanup after a small fire. (Please be advised, that the following is not suggested for large fires.)
- Safety First! Please wear gloves and a painter’s dust mask as you’re working.
- Ventilation is key! Use box fans in open windows to draw out dust.
- Always clean “top to bottom.” Begin by cleaning the ceilings, walls and fixtures. Proceed to cleaning the contents (furniture, etc.) and lastly clean the floor.
- Vacuum all furniture upholstery and the floors. Use a vacuum that features a high-efficiency filter, to prevent reintroducing soot into the air.
- Curtains, clothing and other machine-washable textiles can be laundered. A mild alkaline detergent is recommended to neutralize acids contained in soot. Any fine clothes should be dry-cleaned.
- Exterior walls, including brick, wood, stone, paint and siding and the eaves are cleaned by pressure-washing with detergent and using a soft brush to agitate soot, before rinsing from the top, moving downward
- If your fire damage and soot residue are particularly heavy, it’s best to hire a professional for expert cleaning and restoration of your property and its contents.
- Consult your insurance agent to verify if your policy covers smoke damage from outdoor sources. Harris Claims Services offers policy interpretation of fire restoration, which we highly recommend.
- If your property fire damage includes structural warping, you need to consult with a licensed general contractor. Harris Claims Services is a great choice.
How Long Should You Wait to Start the Cleanup & Restoration Process After a Fire?
Restoration technicians advise that the longer a property owner waits to neutralize soot damage and perform corrosion control and a thorough cleaning and restoration of their home, they will extend the effects caused by smoke damage.
The timeline of the effects of smoke and fire damage on a home are as follows:
- Within minutes: The acid in soot residue will yellow and otherwise discolor plastics such as small appliances close to the source of the fire. Highly porous materials such as marble or alabaster countertops can be permanently discolored.
- Within hours: The acids in soot will stain tile grout in bathrooms and kitchens. Bathtubs and sinks made of fiberglass may turn yellow. Uncoated metals may tarnish. Countertops may yellow as well as finishes on major appliances, such as your refrigerator.
- Within Days: Acidic soot residue causes painted walls to permanently yellow. Uncoated metal surfaces corrode, develop pits, and rust. Wood furniture finishes will be ruined and need redone. Vinyl flooring will likely need replacement. Clothing will be stained and upholstery will be ruined.
- Within Weeks: Restoration costs increase greatly. Carpet fibers will yellow or become permanently discolored. Genuine silverware can permanently corrode. Glass, crystal or ceramics may need replaced as a result of severe etching and pits due to prolonged exposure to the acids in soot residue.
We recommend that soot residue be cleaned up as soon as possible. During a fire, soot residue is carried by rising, hot air and deposited onto all surfaces in a home. This process continues until the fire is extinguished, where soot residue accumulates in layers. In fact, soot residue can be so stubborn as to act like lacquer, causing it to be much more difficult to dissolve and clean.
What About Residual Odors?
After cleaning all residues, removing odors caused by smoke damage is required, using this four-step process:
- The source of the odor must be removed, including debris that cannot be salvaged. Such debris can recontaminate cleaned surfaces and textiles if they’re not removed.
- Clean all salvageable items and surfaces to remove the residues causing odors.
- Use an odor “counteractant” to treat remaining odors. For smoke damage, a deodorizing fog will seek out odor-causing residue, chemically react with them and neutralize odors.
- Seal salvageable surfaces that may be inaccessible or mildly scorched. This is both for aesthetic purposes and to encapsulate odor and stop further contamination.
Read-Up and Be Proactive… Your Home Will Thank You!
Knowing what affects a fire can have in the home helps the property owner evaluate their damage. Learning about cleanup and restoration ahead of time allows a homeowner to be proactive and minimize costly repairs. The experts at Harris Claims Services can help you restore your home and belongings to their “pre-loss” conditions.
Harris Claims Services is located in Chicago and Lincolnwood, Illinois and we’ve helped homeowners and businesses for more than 40 years. Our services are provided throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. We are available for out of state work also.